COP26: Disability’s fight for climate justice

Conversations around climate change are reaching a crescendo as the UK hosts the UN Climate Change Conference, more commonly known as COP26, in Glasgow. Mary Keogh, advocacy director at CBM Global, reveals why disabled voices need to be included.

As COP26 gets underway, in what way does climate change impact the disabled community?

Climate change and its impact affects every community, and the disabled community isn’t any different. People with disabilities need to be involved in the movement for climate justice.

Depending on the country, there will be a different experience. In African countries, there is drought. Equally in the UK, you have flooding or cold and ice in winter and the extra costs that come with this effect people with disabilities and everyone else.

CBM Global created videos with the European Disability Forum (EDF) highlighting the lived experience of climate change from disabled people across the world. Why are these conversations important?

There is an entire movement that is emerging. When we looked at the material and the videos being shared around the impact of climate change, there is very little being shared from the perspective of disabled people.

That is why we created the videos alongside the EDF. We also made the videos on Zoom, so they were accessible. Also, if you are taking being carbon conscious seriously then not travelling for interviews is even better. We had the opportunity to speak to activists all over the world who really clearly tell their stories.

Why is it key that the voices of disabled people are heard and considered when discussing climate change?

It is really important that everyone has their voice heard around climate change and persons with a disability are no different. What we find in our work, sometimes the connection between climate and disability is not made by policy makers in climate.

The UK Government have a real chance, especially as the UK is hosting COP26 this year, to lead the way in disability inclusion.

In regards to accessibility, why is providing information in different formats essential to get more disabled people fighting for climate justice?

This is a really important point. The easy-to-read versions being spoken about, they are becoming more and more available but still not to the extent of being as inclusive as possible. All discussions around climate change can be quite technical, so the easy-to-read information and documents will need to be crystal clear so that people can be involved.

For readers looking to learn more about climate change or who want to get involved with campaigning, what advice do you have for them?

You’ve got groups such as Extinction Rebellion, they have a grassroots network at a community level which is a great place to start. Additionally, there are climate justice groups in your local neighbourhood alongside all of the leading disability organisations, they need to look at how to engage to ensure they are part of the discussion.

You can make yourself aware. You can watch the Disability InclusiveClimate Justice videos on CBM Global’s website. Learn more about COP26 at ukcop26.org

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